How Do You Know When It's Time To Quit?

Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a project or task and you wanted to quit?

I bet your inner dialogue started tossing out all sorts of motivational mantras to encourage you to push through. Maybe something like...

Keep going! Persevere! Follow through! Remember why you started!

All of that advice is immensely valuable in the right moment (and it’s certainly advice I’ve dispensed before)... but what if “pushing through” the task at hand is ultimately doing more harm than good?

What if persevering down a path is only leading you farther and farther away from yourself?

These are the questions I was asking myself two weeks ago when we were about to leave for our trip to Tahiti.

I could feel myself being weighed down by the various daily commitments and projects I’d undertaken. During our trip, I wanted time and space to myself to be present and to reflect, so I decided I wanted to stay off of Instagram and social media for the duration of our stay.

This posed a bit of a conundrum, because as most of you know, for 2016 I had committed to posting a different abstract art piece and message every single day of the year.

I considered the possible solutions. What was I to do, program my posts and publish them while I was on vacation?

Not only did that seem to undermine the authenticity of the project, but I also didn’t love the idea of going on the most freeing, beautiful vacation of my life only to have this daily “task” weighing over me.

That’s when Jason asked the question I was too afraid to ask myself: “What would happen if you didn’t post at all?”

It was the first time since January 1st starting the project I had actually allowed myself to consider quitting.

There were plenty of moments throughout this art project when I didn’t want to do my piece for the day. Maybe I was feeling tired, or had a splitting headache, or didn’t feel inspired, or wanted to do something else, but ultimately I powered through anyway because I knew that resistance was part of the process. I learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of in committing to push past that resistance.

But this road block felt different.

It felt like I had arrived at a moment in the project when every ounce of my original intention was no longer there.

In the beginning, my mission for undertaking such an ambitious commitment was essentially this list of things:

  • To develop my confidence when it came to painting and my own point of view as an artist
  • To commit to carving out time for creativity and make it a habitual part of my daily life
  • To push myself to explore new boundaries and share my art, even if it felt imperfect

But now, 10 months later, my confidence had been built, my creative practice had become a habit, and I have no problem exploring the boundaries of my creativity or sharing imperfect work.

So, if these original intentions had been met, what was the project about now?

I realized that the project was no longer about creating; the project had become about NOT quitting.

It had become about what other people would think if I didn't make it to day 366. What it might say about me if I didn’t follow through.

Liz Gilbert in a podcast episode once said something I'll never forget:

“Anything that doesn’t taste like freedom is not your path.”

This project stopped tasting like freedom and started tasting likeobligation. Once I realized that, I knew that was my cue to make the hard choice and, yes, QUIT.

It was such a difficult decision to make, and yet once I saw it as a possibility, it was the easiest decision to make too because I saw it as a path back to freedom.

During my delightful week of vacation (away from social media, away from my studio, just present to the experience at hand), upon Jason’s recommendation I picked up the book “The Dip” by Seth Godin. Here’s a quote I love that feels especially appropriate:

“Most of the time, we deal with the obstacles by persevering. Sometimes we get discouraged and turn to inspiration writing, like stuff from Vince Lombardi: ‘Quitters never win and winners never quit.’ Bad advice. Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.

The truth is, quitting things allows you to make room for other things. It allows you to reallocate precious resources, like your mental space and your time.

Now that this project has taught me what I wanted to learn, I’m ready to use that time and space for things that feel more valuable to this current version of myself.

What’s funny about this whole project as I think back to December of last year making the scary declaration that I was going to do a year-long project, my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t finish it. That I would quit. I was so terrified of putting myself in a position to look like a flake.

The irony though is that, in quitting -- in basically realizing my “greatest fear” -- I’ve also realized the baselessness of that fear.

Just because I stopped before piece 366 does not mean that the commitment and hard work and dedication it required to complete 280 pieces simply disappears. It does not eradicate the lessons I learned along the way, nor does it take away from the people whose lives were touched, even just momentarily, by the messages of these pieces.

And that in itself is a huge lesson I will take with me. That even if you’re afraid to start something for fear of not following through, do it anyway.

I also learned a TON about my own artistic voice. I developed a love of painting and it jumpstarted my point of view which has allowed me to move on to huge canvases like these two that I ADORE. I never would have had the courage to paint these last year.

I’ve brought in almost $10,000 to my business through selling prints and I learned how to get my art printed and sold without knowing the first thing about how to do that in January.

I’m so grateful for this project for all the things it taught me, but I think the greatest lesson of ALL is that it reminded me of what is most important to me -- the belief that is absolutely central to everything I do at Made Vibrant:

If I’m doing something that’s not aligned with my truth, my essence, my core being -- if it’s something that’s not lighting me up and I’m tempted to do it because of some type of external validation -- I always want to be the kind of person that finds the strength to walk away from that.

So, my challenge to you this week is to think about what it is in your life that you need permission to quit.

What one thing are you doing for everyone else BUT yourself. What thing is no longer bringing you value or joy or growth, but you continue to do it because you’re afraid of NOT doing it?

Let my own “failure” be an example:

When it brings you back to your true self, quitting is an act of self-empowerment, not an act of weakness. 

When it brings you back to your true self, quitting is an act of self-empowerment, not an act of weakness.

Once you’ve learned the lesson that a task or project or relationship was here to teach you, it’s okay to release it.

I will still be sharing abstract affirmations on my Insta account, just not within a formal “project” basis, and I’m excited to transition what I’ve learned into the 15 or so huge canvases that are currently taking up my studio.

Thank you guys for continuing to support every creative experiment and project I continue to take on. After all, what are we on this earth for if not to explore, discover and connect?

I’ll tell you the one thing I don’t intend on quitting any time soon… you guys. :)


One Simple Exercise To Recalibrate Your Life and Business

For eight  glorious days, Jason and I went on vacation to the island of Moorea, French Polynesia, to celebrate the paying off of our debt this year.

During our trip I did my absolute best to stay off of technology (hence the lack of newsletter), knowing that I wanted to give myself fully to the present moment during our trip.

I’ll be honest with you guys, this trip could not have come at a better time. I could feel myself approaching that familiar feeling of burn out right before we left.

I don’t know if it was just the creative hangover from pouring so much of my heart into Color Your Soul (which is unfolding beautifully, but still takes a lot of energy to produce!) or if it was just the changing of the seasons and a natural lull that hits occasionally for all of us creatives.

Either way, I was itching to take a step back and really sift through my life, business and creativity to see what was lighting me up and what wasn't.

Before I left, I found myself entertaining a never-ending deluge of uncertain thoughts:

Should I pour more effort into promoting Color Your Soul, or keep letting it grow organically?
Should I keep up my Abstract Affirmations Daily project even though I feel it’s no longer serving my creativity?
Should I stop doing monthly classes and instead move to live-only classes?
Should I pack up and just move to Tahiti permanently? ;)

A should-ton of shoulds, don’t you think?

To take back some semblance of control from my should-spiral, I tried approaching these big sweeping questions rationally. I tried thinking my way through it by putting my big girl business pants on. I thought about time vs. money and profitability and all that very adult, reasonable stuff.

But that approach just didn’t feel quite right. My business pants have always played second fiddle to my core-truth/intuition pants and that’s the way I keep myself aligned to a path that feels most vibrant. (Note to self: Intuition Pants = future business idea.)

Finally, after a few days of relaxation and SPACE and not forcing myself to “figure things out” on our vacation, I picked up Danielle LaPorte’s book The Desire Map on my Kindle. I knew of the basic core desired feelings philosophy from reading her other work, but I’d never really gone through the process of laying out my own in concrete terms.

This framework -- one that was actionable and concrete but still very soulful and heart-centered -- was exactly the catalyst I needed to work through this block of mine.

I’m sure I’ll be sharing more of how this philosophy is helping point me forward in the future, but for this week, I wanted to share one very simple exercise that actually helped me get my grasp back on what was working for me on a daily basis and what wasn’t. What was leading to my core desired feelings and what wasn’t.

One major feeling that I immediately identified as essential to how I want to feel on a daily basis was FREE.

Freedom to me represents doing what my core feels pulled to do rather than what I feel I have to do or should do. Freedom to me feels light, energetic, satisfying, unencumbered, and fluid.

So, half-way through the book, I I took out my one notebook I brought with me on my trip and I made two lists: MORE and LESS.

What did I want more of in my daily life and what did I want less of?

What things light me up that I can pump up the volume on and what things dim my light that I can start to remove?

What makes me feel more vibrant and what makes me feel more gray?

Two lists. It’s that simple.

Here are some examples from my lists:


  • Freedom
  • Stillness
  • Connecting with other soulful creatives
  • Long walks with my favorite podcasts
  • Morning meditations
  • Lazy weekends
  • Writing
  • Checking in with myself regularly
  • Panting when I want to
  • Trusting my instincts
  • Viewing experimentation as productive


  • Deadlines
  • Urgency
  • Self-isolation
  • Obsessive notification checking
  • Morning email checking
  • Using weekends to “get ahead”
  • Second-guessing
  • Pushing myself to burn out before I check in with myself
  • Painting because I “have to”
  • Consuming the work of other artists/business owners
  • Viewing experimentation as failure

Writing these things down in these very specific terms and differentiating what made me feel free versus what made me feel constricted was key to getting back to my core self. It was like my compass had been gathering dust and with this one exercises I was able to see which way was North again.

Now even this long list can start to feel overwhelming pretty fast, like you have to make all these trades and swaps RIGHT THIS MOMENT. But that’s a recipe for disaster. I’ve come off of these breaks before and tried diving back in head-first, which only leads me right back to where I started: burned out.

So instead I’ve just chosen two swaps to try: morning mediations instead of email checking; and cutting back on my inspiration sources so I can reconnect with my own instincts.

Next Monday I put 5 minutes on my calendar to revisit this list and check in with how I’m feeling. (Okay, I guess that fits under “more checking in with myself regularly.” Huzzah! One more on the list!)

My challenge to you this week is to do the same. Take 5 minutes and write down your own more/less list.

Then, if you’re feeling frisky, head over to Instagram and share in the comments one swap that you intend to make this week to follow what lights you up instead of what dims your light.

My hope is that we can all encourage one another there and, by sharing, we can all remind ourselves that this journey to becoming vibrant is a DAILY journey, one that takes constant calibration.

The journey to becoming vibrant is a DAILY journey, one that takes constant calibration.


One HUGE clarifying thought that came to me on this trip is the reminder that this flux of flow and doubt, of growing and then re-assessing, is at the heart of the creative journey. It does not stop. This is not something to “figure out” or a puzzle to finally solve; it is something to constantly come back to and tend to.

Just remember, you don’t need to take a week or fly to a distant land to reconnect to yourself. You can make that space anywhere, anytime if you choose it.

Wishing you a week of more light, less stress.


How To Thrive Through The Uncertainty Of Your Creative Business

In January of 2015, my Better Lettering Course (a $20 basic course on hand-lettering) made me $5,100/month of (virtually) passive income.

Basically one blog post on my site was getting an unbelievable amount of traffic from Pinterest and it was converting to sales of the course. My gifts/talents/products were aligned with a need in the market, plus I had an effective marketing machine that was pumping life into my business. Times were good, and I actually thought to myself, I think I’m getting the hang of this independent business thing.

Fast forward to yesterday when I pulled the financials from September (I do this every month separately from my bookkeeper to keep myself actively evaluating my business revenue and deciding which projects to focus on and which to let go of.)

Do you know how much income that same lettering course pulled in for September 2016? $460.

$5,100/month to $460/month.

Quite a difference from the basically full-time salary it was creating for me throughout last year.

Now, thankfully I’ve been smart enough to diversify my revenue over the past two years so my business health doesn’t hinge on the sustained success of one product. 

But I wanted to share these numbers with you guys to illustrate a very important lesson in running a creative business, one that I don’t see enough people talking about online: The market is ALWAYS changing.

As artists and creatives, we often want to operate in an ideal world where we can simply create what we want to create, build an audience of devoted patrons, and watch the money follow.

(Let me be clear, I still VERY much advocate for making this kind of idealism the primary approach. We’ll never even come close to creating an ideal life/career for ourselves if we don’t start by aiming high and believing in what’s possible.)

BUT, I also believe we have to temper that idealism with the pragmatism of what actually works in business and what will actually bring us money.

I believe that delicate balance is the cost of entry for the immense privilege of earning a living solely from your passion. The truth is that we can’t go on creating our heart’s work if we don’t have money to sustain us. So while money will never be a primary driver for me, the financials have to be stable in order to give me the space and oxygen I need to create.

Which is exactly why it can be so terrifying when a once stable source of business revenue stops being stable.

Turns out, there’s actually a biological basis for this fear. See, humans CRAVE certainty. When faced with uncertainty, our brain’s go into a state of defense. Here’s a particularly interesting passage on the subject from Psychology Today:

“A sense of uncertainty about the future generates a strong threat or 'alert' response in your limbic system. Your brain detects something is wrong, and your ability to focus on other issues diminishes. Your brain doesn't like uncertainty - it's like a type of pain, something to be avoided. Certainty on the other hand feels rewarding, and we tend to steer toward it, even when it might be better for us to remain uncertain.” 
- David Rock, Psychology Today

Did you catch that? To our brains, uncertainty basically equals pain.

To make that uncertainty even more complicated, not only is the market a moving target, but WE are a moving target ourselves. What we want today may not be what we want tomorrow.

What I value right now in my life above all else -- flexibility, freedom, experimentation -- may not be what I value in five years when, let’s say, I’m starting a family.

So that’s the core challenge of running a creative biz: the market is always changing, and YOU are always changing. Either way, what worked yesterday won't work today, and that leaves us in a perpetual state of uncertainty.

The challenge of running a creative biz: the market is always changing & YOU are always changing.


To my creative business owners out there (or aspiring creative business owners), does this hit home with you? Can you relate to that sense of anxiety that comes when something that was once solid ground for you becomes dust beneath your feet?

Maybe it’s a revenue stream that takes a downturn. Maybe it’s social media growth that suddenly stalls. Maybe it’s a launch plan that worked a year ago but is no longer connecting.

Or… maybe the uncertainty is stemming more from the moving target within. Maybe you no longer feel connected to a creative project you started a year ago. Maybe your values have changed and now you don’t feel aligned with what you’re producing in your business.

In either case, the question remains:

How do you thrive when the game changes on you?

Well, I certainly don’t have all the answers, but after contemplating this quite a bit, here’s the advice I’ve been giving myself.

Tips for Thriving Through the Uncertainty of Business:

1. Learn to love the puzzle.

The unfortunate truth is that the uncertainty of “the puzzle” will never end. This mixed up rubik’s cube where all the variables are constantly changing -- you, the market, social media, technology -- will never stop changing. Though we’re hard-wired to seek out certainty, we have to come to terms with the fact that we live in an uncertain world.

Part of being an effective business owner is learning to love and appreciate that constant flux. To find joy in the variety of it all and to let the puzzle feed your curiosity. Can it be exhausting and frustrating sometimes? Sure. But, flip the script for a moment and it can also be fun and interesting and incredibly rewarding when you see yourself solving level after level of the complicated puzzle.

2. Don’t let your uncertainty turn into self-doubt.

When we’re facing the unknown, it’s natural to feel fear. But unfortunately, what so many of us creatives do in response to that fear is we make it say something about US. When things go changing on us, it’s our immediate reaction to suddenly question all that we are or all that we’ve ever done, as if any wins we’ve had to that point weren’t a reflection of our capability but instead a fluke.

I could have let the change in my lettering course revenue affect my confidence in my own work. “The course must not be that good. People don’t want to learn from me anymore.” Ummm…. Over 3,000 students seem to disagree. Instead of letting the uncertainty of the future turn into self-doubt, I was able to look at all the revenue that product has brought me over the years and let it FEED my confidence, not diminish it.

3. Make your internal metrics as clearly defined as your external metrics.

This is HUGE one. It’s so much easier to define and measure our success with external metrics. Followers, dollars, subscribers… these are all NUMBERS and numbers are well within the comfy, non-painful certainty camp. That’s why we cling to them. They feel like a concrete, REAL reflection of the health of our business.

But what happens when you’re ONLY measuring your business health or success with metrics that reflect external factors? If you’re defining your success only based on how the market responds to you, you’re placing all the power into the hands of something you can’t control.

You can’t control how people respond to your art or your business offerings or your products. You can only create, experiment, observe, learn, and grow. If you’re only measuring your success by the level of market validation, then you put yourself at risk to be disappointed every time you try something that doesn’t work. (Which, as I’ve pointed out, is almost 100% certain to happen in the life of your business given how ever-changing the market is.)

Instead, we have to soften those expectations and external metrics with inner ones. So, ask yourself: how can you measure whether your business is meeting your internal desires and values? Can you count the amount of mornings you’re able to take 15 minutes for a gratitude practice? Can you do it in the number of hours you’re working, or the number of times you create something that feels scary?

The external metrics may feel real and satisfying to our need for certainty, but the internal metrics -- the ones that tell you you’re fulfilling the deep, true desires of your most vibrant life -- are the ones that bring important context to those numbers. I’m perfectly happy to see a drop in my revenue if it means I’m working less hours, taking more breaks, and stretching myself creatively.

This week, your challenge is to write down your own internal metric system.

Next time you find yourself in that spiral of uncertainty when something in your business stops working the way you thought it would, I want you to first come back to that metric system and remind yourself to also measure your internal alignment. Find peace in the fact that at a core level, you’re still making decisions aligned with your true self.

THEN, remind yourself that business is merely one complex puzzle after the next. Keep changing one variable at a time until you land on something that IS working again. (And prepare yourself for the moment when that too changes yet again.)

We live in a time when it’s easier than ever to create a business around who you really are and the things you love. BUT, that’s doesn’t mean it’s EASY. It will never be easy. And I’m starting to think that could be part of the fun of it. 😄

I hope this week’s letter was helpful. I haven’t dedicated an entire letter to a business topic in a while! I love sharing this ever-evolving journey with you guys, so THANK YOU for reading week after week.


Join The October Challenge and Draw Your Memories

Draw Your Memories, a 30-day drawing class is now open! Sign up here for just $30 and join me in drawing a different memory every day of October!

October is right around the corner and that means a new issue of Color Your Soul and a new daily challenge on Instagram!

Before we talk about the details of the upcoming challenge, I wanted to give you a sneak peek of the October issue of Color Your Soul. Rich, bold color and unexpected pops of brights have me feeling cheeky yet STRONG. Which leads me to this month's theme...

This October, I want you to Color Your Soul with CONFIDENCE.

"We always tend to think of confidence as something that is delivered TO US from the outside world. If others would just give us positive feedback or validation, THEN we’ll feel confident, right?
"But confidence is not something that comes to us; it comes FROM us. It is planted within us first through BELIEF and is cultivated and tended to through experience and practice."

To read more, become a Color Your Soul Subscriber and get the Confidence issue in your inbox starting October 1st!


Okay, enough with the secrets! Now onto this month's creative challenge...

Since the goal is to cultivate confidence this month, I knew I wanted to offer up some type of creative challenge every day of October.

Enter... Draw Your Memories, my newest online class!

Many of you have requested an online class for line drawing and illustration so that's exactly what I've created! 


Not only do I go over the basics of simple line drawing and how I approach my own illustration style, but I talk about how to discover and hone your own style. Drawing does NOT have to feel technical and intimidating and restrictive. It can feel fun and playful and full of personality!

You can join the class NOW by clicking here! 

To cultivate CONFIDENCE with your creativity, this month's #MVcoloryoursoul companion challenge is to post your illustrated memories on Instagram using the daily prompts below!


October Giveaway Details


how to play

Step 1: Enroll in the Draw Your Memories online class right now for just $30! (or get access for free with a Color Your Soul Subscription!)

Step 2: Use the daily prompts to draw an object that represents a past memory every day of October. 

Step 3: Post your work on Instagram using the hashtag #MVcoloryoursoul and #DrawYourMemories (This is how I'm able to see your post. You can also tag me @ckelso if you want so I see it!)

The more days you post, the greater your chances to win!

Step 4: Celebrate on October 31st by being a complete rockstar and experience the boost in creative confidence that comes with doing something intentionally for a whole month! 


On November 4th, I'll be choosing one winner to get this creative prize pack worth over $100! (**Remember, you must be a student of #DrawYourMemories to be eligible to WIN but not to participate!**)


What's included:

  1. Year of the Doodle: 365 Drawing, Collaging, and Mark-Making Adventures (aff link)
  2. 20 Ways to Draw a Doodle (aff link)
  3. Pattern Play Coloring Book (aff link)
  4. The 52 Lists Project: A Year of Weekly Journaling Inspiration (aff link)
  5. Canson Artist Series Universal Sketch Pad, 5.5"X8.5" (aff link)
  6. Blue Q Reusable Zipper Pouch (aff link)
  7. Staedtler Ergosoft Colored Pencils, Set of 24 Colors (aff link)
  8. Semi-Hex Graphite Drawing Pencils 4/Pkg-HB, 2B, 4B, & 6B (aff link)
  9. Crayola Broad Line Ultra-Clean Washable Markers (40 Count) (aff link)
  10. Black Sharpie 5 pack (aff link)

    This prize pack is worth over $100 in creative goodies!

Ready to get started? Access the class and all 30 drawing videos now! 

want to play with friends?
INVITE them OVER ON TWITTER and instagram!

Join me in @ckelso’s #MVcoloryoursoul Challenge for October! Let’s draw our memories & gain creative confidence!

What do you say? Are you in? I sure hope so! 

Join the challenge by itself or become a Color Your Soul Subscriber and get Draw Your Memories free, plus the latest digital issue straight to your inbox today! 

Can't wait to see some of you in class and check out everyone's work over on Instagram all month long. 

Confidence will come with experience and practice, so take the month of October to become more confident in your creative voice!


The Hidden Key To Cultivating Confidence


We all want more confidence in one way or another.

Whether you want the confidence to make and share your art, to build your business by selling your services or growing an audience, to negotiate for more money, to feel good in your own skin, to speak to a large group of people, or take a big risk… we all have a hunger to feel capable and safe from rejection. That’s what confidence does for you. 

But where does it come from? And how do we get more of it? Well, that’s what I want to explore inside Color Your Soul, but today I want to share one tiny nugget that has helped me approach projects and risks in my own life with a bit more confidence.

Flashback to when I was 22, fresh out of college by just six months, and I was having a serious conversation with my mom. Right after graduation, I’d broken up with my boyfriend of a year to start dating Jason (scandalous, I know), and we had been navigating the fun but uncertain waters of a new relationship while doing the long distance thing -- him back in Jacksonville, and me in Durham, North Carolina.

Things were going well with us but not so great with my new job. In short, I hated it. After just six months at an esteemed advertising agency, I decided I couldn’t stand one more day in a job that didn’t utilize my creativity, and so I quit.

The serious conversation with my mom was about my big decision to quit my job and move back to Jacksonville, to MOVE IN with Jason. I remember the look of fear and worry on my mom’s face for me. Wasn’t this all a bit sudden and was I sure I wanted to do this and what would happen if Jason and I didn’t work out.

There are so many things I was NOT confident about back then but I will never forget the unshakable certainty that I felt about that decision to move back to Jacksonville and start a life with Jason.

I was nervous, but I was confident I was making the right decision. HOW?

So many times I’ve asked myself where that unexpected assurance came from in an attempt to unlock some hidden secret about this mysterious thing called confidence.

Was it because I knew Jason and I would work out? Heck no, I had no idea. Was it because I was too naive to think of all that could go wrong? Maybe, but I’d been in other serious relationships and it’s not like I thought they were always sunshine and rainbows.

Upon looking at it further, I realized that the reason I was so confident about my decision was this:

I knew that if it didn’t work out, it would be painful, but ultimately I’d be okay.

I think this knowing -- this belief that YOU can be your own protector -- is the hidden key to cultivating confidence.

Imagine any big (or little) risk in life as though it were an image of you jumping off a cliff into a beautiful, but shockingly cold, lagoon of water below. That’s what a risk feels like, right -- tempting, but scary because you don’t know what will happen when you hit the water, you don’t know what it will feel like when you take flight off the cliff. That’s when you start to think maybe it would all feel much more comfortable and easy to stay on that ledge forever.

Oftentimes when we think of confidence, we focus on the feeling at the top of the cliff, that moment of courage that we need to work up in order to actually leap. That moment is where confidence ends up, but I don’t think that’s where it comes from.

I think confidence actually lives at the bottom of the cliff in the lagoon.

Confidence resides in the belief that we'll be okay regardless of what is on the other side of uncertainty.

Confidence resides in the belief that we’ll be okay regardless of what is on the other side of uncertainty.

It is the voice that tells us that we can take the risk, we can leap off the cliff, because despite not knowing what waits for us below, there is always a safety net. That safety net is YOU.

When I was just starting my design business back in 2014, one thing I struggled with the most was sending out proposals. This is where I basically had to declare what I think I’m worth as a designer. I would write and rewrite the final project estimate 20 different times because I lacked the confidence to tell someone exactly how much I deserved to be paid. I would fixate on that moment when my potential client would open up the email and look at the price tag, and I agonized over what their reaction would be. Would they think I was arrogant and way overpriced? Would they think I was an amateur and way underpriced?

I struggled with this for months until Jason finally gave me some powerful advice: Don’t focus on the moment when they open the proposal; focus on the moment when they email you back with a no.

As you write that final project total on your proposal, he said, ask yourself: If they say no, will I feel good about the value I’ve placed on my work?

What? Seems like strange advice doesn’t it. Focus on the rejection in order to build your confidence?

What it did for me though is it allowed me to confront my fear of rejection head on and confirm that even if that potential client said no, I wouldn’t fall apart. It put me back in control of my own worth.

And THAT is the key.

When you know that you have your own back no matter what, that’s when you can confidently move forward, even if you’re afraid or unsure.

We all have the tools within us to provide this kind of comfort and protection for ourselves. But in order to use those tools, we have to acknowledge our our power.

We have to take back ownership of ourselves from all the places we’ve divvied it out to -- to our families, to our relationships, to our social media followers, to near strangers on the other end of a proposal email. We place the delicate matter of our own self-worth in their hands, which leaves us feeling incapable and vulnerable to feelings of rejection.

But once you finally make that shift and decide you are the ultimate judge of your own worth -- that you have the ultimate say in who you are and who you become -- that’s when you carry the confidence of a person with a built-in superhero at their side.

Confidence isn't just about acting in spite of your fears; it’s trusting you’ll put yourself back together if those fears come true.

Here’s a sketchbook piece I created inside this month’s Confidence issue.


It is my own reminder that I can be my own safety net. I can cultivate enough trust with myself to know that even if I take a risk and it doesn’t work out, I won’t allow a momentary feeling of failure or rejection stop me from moving forward.

My confidence lives in the knowing that I will never abandon myself.

I hope yours does to.

Your challenge this week is to choose one area of your life in which you'd like to feel more confident.

I want you to write down all the fears that affect your confidence in that area. Then I want you to respond to each fear with how your inner self-worth superhero will take care of you if those fears are realized.

I believe that actually confronting your fears head-on and reminding yourself that you will be okay regardless of if those fears come true or not will help you move forward more confidently in reality.

I have so many more thoughts on this topic I want to share with you guys, but I'll leave it at that for now.

Thanks so much for reading! Wishing you an empowered week!


Why Creating a Shared Vocabulary Is Crucial To Effective Communication

Have you ever found yourself in a situation with another person where you felt completely incapable of communicating? Like nothing you were saying was getting through or being construed in the way you could see it in your head?

I know I have, and the situation that immediately comes to mind for me is my relationship with my partner, Jason.

Now most of you have heard me talk about Jason in these letters before, and rightfully so because he is 100% my other half. For six years now we’ve been living together, working together, co-parenting our fur-child Plaxico together, spending literally 95% off our days together, and it’s led us to develop a deep mutual respect and love for each other. We really are that “best friends” couple cliche.

AND YET, while the rainbows and butterflies of any relationship are nice to talk about, that’s never the full picture, is it (despite what the news feeds of the world might suggest…)?

Maintaining a healthy and happy relationship is NOT easy. We’re two separate humans with two separate perspectives (and two separate gender-specific biology) and all of that means we have to work hard to communicate our way through challenges and disagreements so that we emerge stronger and closer together, not weaker and further apart.

Over the years there have been so many hard conversations, one’s where it felt like we were two strangers in a foreign land, speaking separate languages AT one another without a word of understanding between us.

Why Creating A Shared Vocabulary is Crucial To Effective Communication / via Made VIbrant

What I’ve learned over time is that in order to remedy this, in order to communicate in a way that will actually move a conversation forward, you have to begin by creating a shared vocabulary.

Let’s take the language most of us probably know if you’re reading this right now: English. The only way that I’m able to share my thoughts with you in an effective way every week and actually get my intention across is because I, the sender of this message, and you, the receiver of this message, agree on the basic definition and meaning of each word (aka the building blocks) of this message. Our shared vocabulary allows us to see this message from a fundamentally similar perspective so we’re able to connect.

But, when this isn’t the case, when two people are trying to communicate without a shared understanding of the building blocks of the message, that’s when the wires get crossed and everything turns to noise. The message can’t connect.

I think this is why a book like The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman has found itself on the bestseller list for YEARS. This book acts like a dictionary of physical and emotional cues between partners that creates that essential shared vocabulary. It gives two people in a relationship a way to define and bring shared meaning to certain behaviors which gives them a way to talk about their needs in a way that BOTH people can understand.

So what about expanding that beyond relationships? What about creating a shared vocabulary between you and your friends, or family members or even customers?

In Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong, she proposes a simple tip for helping to create that shared vocabulary between two people that leads to understanding. When you find yourself feeling hurt (which we can all agree is the criteria for 99% of disagreements or conflict in relationships) you can say the phrase: “The story I’m telling myself is…” in order to voice those inner stories floating around in your head constructed from that hurt place.

In a conversation with a best friend who hasn’t called you back it might be “The story I’m telling myself is that I’m not important enough to make time for.” That adds honesty and context to the conversation which can open up the lines of communication between you and a friend that may just be going through a particularly tough time and needs space. That simple phrase helps bring shared meaning to the time between phone calls, a signal that could be interpreted way differently by both people trying to communicate.

In the case of Jason and myself, probably the most stark of our differences is the fact that I am an exceptionally sensitive person and he is an exceptionally stoic person. It’s something that brings balance to our partnership, but it also creates difficulties in communicating too. Over time though, we’ve been able to develop a shared understanding around each of our emotional biases to situations. When I feel hurt or down or particularly sensitive, I’m able to let him know it’s not because of something he did; and when he responds to a situation in a way that might feel unemotional, he’s able to let me know it’s actually not because he doesn’t care. This shared vocabulary has allowed us to add texture and awareness to each other’s perspectives so that we can talk through any challenges in a constructive and mature way.

Working through things this way may be harder than just reacting, but every day we inch just a little bit closer to the middle of the emotional spectrum so that we can understand each other better.

It might sound silly, but I believe this simple concept can even help you in business. By clearly defining a few simple ideas for your audience or customers first, you can create a clearer, more powerful line of connection between you. It’s why I always talk about what it means to live a VIBRANT life, or what it’s like to be a soulful creative. This is the shared vocabulary that brings an even richer, more nuanced level of understanding to our conversations.

So, whether it’s your partner, a family member, an employee or coworker, or your customers, if you want to get your message across, communicating with a shared vocabulary is essential in reaching a mutual understanding. 

Communicating with a shared vocabulary is essential in reaching a mutual understanding.

My challenge to you is the next time you find yourself in a conflict, disagreement or a simple misunderstanding with someone, before moving forward ask yourself if you’re operating with a shared vocabulary.

See if you can dig in and first bring awareness to the building blocks of the message you’re trying to send. Are their assumptions at play that need to be verbalized? Are their emotional differences and perspectives that first need to be communicated?

Communicating is most effective when you’re on the same page, and that’s all a shared vocabulary does. I know it’s helped me have more meaningful conversations and interactions in my own life. So while I continue to learn and navigate my own interpersonal relationships, at least I know the ones I am able to cultivate are built on a foundation of effective communication.

Thanks for reading, as always, and check out the latest news and updates on all things Made Vibrant below!


How To Get Started With Acrylic Abstract Painting

How To Get Started With Acrylic Abstract Painting

Click below to read more about my personal journey with painting, plus my 4 tips for getting started with acrylic abstract painting!

The Causes Of (& Cures For) A Creative Hangover

Wow, last week was a bit of a blur!

Finally launching Color Your Soul -- a project that was basically four months in the making -- was such a joyful feeling. It was so comforting and validating to know that this creative idea of mine was in loving, accepting hands with you guys. Your warm email replies (especially from those of you that unhesitatingly jumped on board with this first issue and became subscribers!) was an incredible feeling.

Today, though, I want to get REALLY honest about the emotional aftermath of launching a creative project like this, one where so much of your heart is invested.

Truthfully I thought about not writing this letter at all, sticking to some safer topic that felt less raw. But, after thinking it over, I realized that you guys don’t open these emails each Monday for the sugar-coated stuff. I’ve always tried to share with you the REAL emotions and real insecurities behind running a creative, values-based business, and so today I wanted to honor that promise by keeping it real.

So here’s the truth:

This weekend felt WEIRD.

Despite experiencing the highest high introducing Color Your Soul to you guys on Thursday and welcoming many of you as subscribers, I woke up on Saturday and felt strangely OFF. It was a feeling I haven’t had in awhile, not necessarily one of sadness or disappointment but just of confusion, like this beacon of light I’d been chasing all summer was no longer illuminated and I was now fumbling around in the dark.

This isn’t how this is supposed to feel, I thought. I made the thing I’ve been dreaming of making! It’s alive and in the hands of people who appreciate it! So what is this strange feeling?!

It’s not that I was questioning my vision -- I believe more than ever in the vision I have for this movement toward soulful, inspiring, thought-provoking content -- and as I look at Color Your Soul and the canvas it’s provided me to go on making this kind of content for you guys, there’s no doubt in my mind it’s what I want to be working on.

So, if it’s not the idea itself then, what is it? Where was this sudden slump coming from?

I spent all day yesterday trying to sort through these emotions. I took my token beach walk to ponder the meaning of life (that’s not a joke, I actually do that), and I got really honest with myself, peeling back the layers until I hit on something that felt real.

What I decided was this:

I was experiencing a creative hangover.

A creative hangover is the emotional aftermath of bringing a dream into reality. 

A creative hangover is the emotional aftermath of bringing a dream into reality.

There are two primary causes of a creative hangover. (Duh, bourbon and tequila. Just kidding... Or am I?? 💃🏽😉)

Creative Hangover Cause #1: The loss of your guiding focus.

For months I woke up and I had a clear purpose: to get ready for the launch of Color Your Soul.

I had a guiding vision that provided a structure for each of my days and gave me something distinct to measure my progress against. This made my creative spirit feel safe and purposeful.

My friend Steph often refers to this as “chasing the carrot.” When the carrot goes away, there’s a feeling of aimlessness that settles in.

This weekend, even though my purpose was technically unchanged (work on Color Your Soul), the big guiding beacon of “Launch Day” -- the carrot -- was no longer there. That absence no doubt contributed to my weird and aimless feeling.

Creative Hangover Cause #2: The dissonance between dream and reality.

When you pour your whole heart and your true self into an idea or a project or some kind of brave leap, when you spend days or weeks or (in my case) months daydreaming about it, you inevitably create a version of it in your head that feels real.

You spend so much time and invest so much of your emotional resources imagining it, that a part of you just assumes the reality will match the fantasy.

But, we all know that the reality NEVER actually matches the fantasy (that’s literally the definition of a fantasy -- it only exists in our imagination.)

When I experienced the high of launching last week -- a mixture of joy and relief and excitement and anticipation -- all of those amazing emotions fit the vision in my dream BUT they weren’t sustainable, not at those levels anyway.

After the high faded and my heightened state started to even back out this weekend, suddenly I became acutely aware of how my reality contrasted with my dream.

Think about it: we never fixate on visions of ourselves having a perfectly humble, mundane happy day; Instead, our dreams and fantasies tend to feel grand and elevated. It’s no wonder reality can often seem pale in comparison.

That dissonance -- the disconnect between the grand vision I’d fixated on for months and the happy-yet-humble satisfaction of reality -- caused a sort of emotional reverberation, my creative hangover.

This concept doesn’t just apply to some big project like I’m talking about, but I think it could be any big event in your life, any vision you’ve been working toward.

Once you reach that milestone and the high of it wears off, often you can be left in a strange emotional limbo.

So how do you work through it?

For me it was a matter of first becoming of aware of it and not feeling guilty over it. For a moment I thought to myself, “Snap out of it, Caroline, you made the thing you wanted to make and you should be elated!”

Criticizing yourself for your emotional response is never productive, at least not in my experience.

Once I recognized this creative hangover for what it was and realized it didn’t say anything about me OR about my love for Color Your Soul, then I just shifted my focus back to the long game. I let go of the fantasy of “Launch Day” and set my sights on a more sustainable, more reality-based vision -- one where I’m not building up some grand to-do or chasing down another carrot, but instead I’m reminding myself to aim for what’s sustainable. To recalibrate my emotional measuring stick to a range that’s much closer to the everyday kind of happiness that comes with doing work that’s deeply fulfilling.

It may not be the grand stuff that daydreams are made of, but it’s REAL and it’s rich. It can be that normal happy day where I get to continue to work on the thing close to my heart, serving people close to my heart (hint hint: that’s you!)

So my challenge to you this week is then actually just a question:

Have you experienced this emotional, creative hangover? A project or event or big leap that left you feeling a little lost or dazed afterward?

If so, how were you able to navigate that experience and how can you emotionally recalibrate your own expectations so that you find satisfaction in reality, however that feels? Let me know in the comments!

The reason I wanted to share these feelings with you all is to show you that no matter how long you continue to make things, no matter how many years you get under your belt running a creative business, there is always more to learn and further to grow.

Even if you do find the courage to MAKE THE THING (which is half the battle!) there will always be unfamiliar, often uncomfortable feelings to navigate, and that’s just part of the gig. Creativity at its foundation is an emotional pursuit.

Anyway, I hope this message came across in the way I intended it to. I want to be clear, I’m still 100% all in on Color Your Soul and I’m already so in love with the conversations starting and the community forming around helpful AND heartful themed content like this.

In fact, topics like this are exactly WHY I wanted to create it in the first place. I want to start conversations about the real creative journey, the one that’s messy and yes, WEIRD, and full of all sorts of tangley, disorienting feelings. Why? Because these topics are where the clues to living our brightest, most VIBRANT lives reside.

Hoping you had (and are continuing to have!) a restful weekend.


Introducing... Color Your Soul and Made Vibrant 3.0

It's here!!

I'm so EXCITED to finally introduce you to the new Made Vibrant site and the project that has been brewing in my head and heart for almost a YEAR now... Color Your Soul! 😱🍾💃🏽

I want to share EVERYTHING that went into this update, but first, a little backstory on what led to these big changes... 


it began with An Evolving Business Strategy

Back in April of 2016, I started to realized that the overall Made Vibrant brand was becoming a bit muddled in my head.

I had all these online courses -- my branding course, my lettering course, an e-course about e-courses (!) -- as well as a resource shop that was rarely being visited and an Art Shop with new pieces being added to it daily.

I was starting to feel like Made Vibrant was becoming just a mix of THINGS without one cohesive concept to pull it all together. 

Not only did this overall business strategy feel pretty disjointed to me, but the website started to reflect this dispersion too, like it had been cobbled together over the course of the months and years to retrofit one-off projects. (Ummmm... probably because it had.)

In an effort to embrace my 2016 word for the year, CURATE, I began to ask myself:

What do I really want Made Vibrant to offer and how can I pull that together under one logical "roof"?

I began evaluating my various offerings/revenue streams to look for a sweet spot: the place where what I'm good at meets what other people need/will pay for meets what I actually like doing. 

The sweet spot became obvious pretty quickly: fun and affordable online classes.

I'm an eternal learner who is always challenging myself to cultivate new skills across a variety of topics, and I LOVE passing on that info to others in an engaging way. I view online classes like a creative medium in itself because I get to combine production design, editing, branding, curriculum design, writing... all my favorite stuff!

The Better Lettering Course -- a $20 online class -- has brought in over $70,000 alone in the two years it's been available, so I knew that low-priced (but quality) class options were resonating with my audience, making it a viable strategy from a profitability standpoint.

My plan then became to shift my focus to creating these types of affordable, bite-sized classes (between $20 - $40) more frequently and formally to build up a diverse and engaging course catalog. 

That's when the thought hit me.

As my class catalog grows, it only makes sense to offer a monthly subscription to access ALL the classes at once, rather than asking people to purchase them one off. As a consumer myself, I personally love the subscription model because I'm definitely a "taster" -- I have really diverse interests and like having access to many things at one time. I felt like the Made Vibrant audience would feel the same way.

Armed with this new subscription-based focus on classes, it suddenly became clear that my old website design didn't support this business objective whatsoever.

The structure of the old site was created at a time when I only had one class, and, as I preach inside the Better Branding Course, you want your website design to support and contribute to your overall business goals. That's the whole point of having an online presence after all -- to aid in the growth of your business.

Takeaway: If you've experimented with several different revenue streams and it's starting to feel disjointed, take the time to evaluate each one and pare things down to what's most profitable AND enjoyable to you.

With a new business strategy and website re-design plan in hand, one more piece of the puzzle started to become evident...

The New Brand


developing an artist's brand

As I got to work planning out the new website in April, another thing started to become pretty obvious to me: I no longer felt fully connected to my own brand. 

The last Made Vibrant brand update was back in April of 2015, and while the colors and overall bold, vibrant aesthetic still felt relevant, there was something... missing

I always say that if you no longer feel your brand authentically represents who you are FULLY, then it’s time to consider an update

(Notice this doesn't say update your brand just because you're bored with it. 😉)

In my case, a lot had evolved for me personally since that last brand refresh. Most notably, I started painting and was beginning to fully embody this identity of “artist” that I’d fought so hard to confidently claim. I wanted that story to be told through the brand.

That meant there were two big elements that felt lacking (or far too quiet) in the old brand identity that I wanted to amp up in the new one: 1) An emphasis on art and 2) Some kind of soulful element.



New mood board for Made Vibrant 3.0 brand

You can see the mood board that I put together to reflect the brand shift. 

Inspired by the messy nature of acrylic paints and paper collage, I wanted to make sure that the brand carried a tactile, layered, kinetic feeling -- a feeling that I experience every day in my studio.

My biggest challenge with incorporating these new elements into the overall tone was in balancing the punchy, bright colors that feel joyful and fun with visual elements that carry a current of soulfulness and depth.


I tried out a lot of different design directions until I stumbled upon a visual solution: colorful marbled paper patterns. This became the primary inspiration for the new brand. You can see them in action on these Instagram quote cards here:

The reason I love these is that not only do they feel artistic and kinetic like I talked about above, but there’s a soulful, almost celestial quality to them that reminds me of the galaxy and the ocean at the same time. 

Once I created those as an inspiration jumping off point, the rest of the brand just started to flow right out of me.

I kept the old color palette primarily the same with the addition of a few lighter accent tints to provide more flexibility with the palette. 

The biggest change came in the expansion of graphic elements and collage-like photo treatments which give the overall brand a layered, artistic, collage-like vibe. I also wanted to play with the intermingling of a flat 2-dimensional style and a more 3-dimensional multi-media art vibe, so I included these little hand-drawn scribble shadows (inspired by the illustration work of Oliver Jeffers) throughout the branding to offer up some depth and visual interest. 

Dynamic logo concept for new Made Vibrant brand


I updated my typography palette to include two new fonts, Karla and Sailec. Each one fits a role similar to my previous brand font (Adelle Sans), but I really love how modern and bold the geometric sans of Sailec feels with the friendlier and versatile Karla. 

I also made a custom accent font, VIBRANTLY, from my own hand-lettering, which adds an approachable, personal vibe to the largely modern and basic typography palette: 

Hi, I'm Vibrantly! A bold yet quirky handwritten font!
Nice to meet you!

To check out all the new brand elements in action, you can flip through the new brand guidelines I created here:

Takeaway: Your brand should feel like it aligns fully with who you are (and, in some cases, who you're becoming.)

It's important that you feel emotionally connected to it so you can feel proud to get out there and share your business and your heart's work.

The New Website


rethinking everything

Once the new brand was in place, the website redesign process started to really accelerate because I could finally see a clear vision for the brand vibe emerging. 

(To give you an idea of the website evolution process, here's how the Made Vibrant site has changed over the years:)

You can see the slight update in the color palette and layout, but overall the sites feel very similar in style. 

In website updates in the past, I mainly focused on updating the aesthetics, not necessarily rethinking every single page from the ground up.

This time around though, I really wanted to throw all the other site iterations out the window and start from zero, keeping my new business strategy in mind. On every single page I asked myself: 

What one action do I want someone to take on this page? 

I really tried to practice what I preach inside the Better Branding Course, which is to not only meet the needs of a visitor by delivering what they might be looking for, but also balance that with the objective I have for the site: to get people to sign up for the individual online classes or the monthly subscription, Color Your Soul (more on that below!)

That meant a more streamlined navigation and home page, with the emphasis being the classes and Color Your Soul. 

Made Vibrant 3.0 website design / vibrant, approachable, and creative



  • Blog Feed page - I made it easier to see multiple posts at a glance PLUS I created category pages (like this one) to make sure visitors can easily find the type of content they’re looking for

  • Full-width blog posts - What?! No sidebar? Ahhhh! I probably made this into a bigger issue than it needed to be, but I was really torn on this decision. I love reading content that doesn't have a distracting sidebar, and my writing always felt a bit constrained in the old post design BUT sidebars are highly functional. They can introduce you to a new visitor and I didn't want to miss out on that. My solution? A little hello image that is added to each post so that new visitors will have a small idea of who I am as they read. It may not be a fancy solution, but I kind of like that in this layout, images play off the text like little clippings of visual interest.

  • Classes page - Believe it or not, on the old site I didn’t have one easily accessible page where visitors could see at a glance ALL my class offerings. This page will be even more important in the future as new classes are added every month!

  • Login page - Laura and I get emails on a regular basis from students that can’t locate where to login to their classes (or don't want to search for their Welcome email) so having one place to log in to individual classes or to access the exclusive Color Your Soul content dashboard was a must.

  • And of course, the Color Your Soul page is new! Color Your Soul is what my idea for creating an online class subscription turned into (more on this below!) This page explains exactly what it is and what's included in the subscription. I especially had fun planning and editing the Color Your Soul trailer video to explain the subscription. 


Technical considerations

From a technical standpoint, there were two big changes. 

First, I decided to switch my Squarespace template over from Bryant to Pacific.

The main reason for this was to take advantage of their Index Page feature, which allows me to create full-width color-banded sections within one page. From a design standpoint, I love that I can clearly separate/define areas and organize information, and it's a great opportunity to use those fun marble brand patterns!

The other big move was to find a way to manage subscriptions and create paywalled, exclusive content for the Color Your Soul Subscribers.

I've seen others use the service Tinypass before, and I tried months ago to play around with their product but it seemed overly complicated to me. Thankfully, Jason encouraged me to do another search back in May thinking that maybe someone had improved the experience since I first did my research, and he was right! 

Enter... Memberspace.

Memberspace is literally a service for managing memberships through Squarespace. 🙌  It was a match made in heaven!

They make it SUPER simple to set up plans, manage member accounts and create paywalled content, which is where all the Color Your Soul content lives (only accessible to paying members.)

**ps. If you're interested in using Memberspace on your own site, you can get 10% off your first three months with them by using the code "color_your_soul" at checkout!**

Speaking of Color Your Soul, you may be wondering at what point my "online class subscription" idea turned into something called Color Your Soul...

Color Your Soul


a year in the making

It all started with a desire to create online content that felt deeper.

Around November of last year I had this idea to create a monthly magazine of sorts that would center around one central theme each month. I wanted to release it in January of 2016 (some of you might even remember a live workshop I did announcing the idea to gauge interest.)

The problem is that I felt rushed to create something in one month that didn't even feel fully formed in my own head yet. So I scrapped it.

The idea sat in the back of my head, waiting for the right moment to pop back up, but I never fully let it go.  

When I came to my conclusion about wanting to create a monthly subscription that could house all my online classes, Color Your Soul popped right back into my head and it became clear that THIS was the missing thread I was looking for to tie the various pieces of Made Vibrant together.



It was around this time that I was also starting to feel like even though I LOVED teaching online classes, the whole info-preneurship movement was reaching peak saturation.

I felt like there were all these THINGS being thrown around telling people HOW TO do X, Y and Z, and I didn't want to be just another person adding to the noise. 

I wanted my classes and content to come from a place of inspiration and depth, not just wanting to make another quick buck by telling someone HOW TO do something. 

As I thought about what kind of monthly subscription I myself would want to subscribe to, the idea of what Color Your Soul could become started to come into focus. 

It would be part digital magazine, part learning community, part art gallery... all centering around one mindfulness theme every month. 

Part digital magazine, part learning community, part art gallery... all centering around one mindfulness theme every month.

The goal would be to inspire, to teach and to encourage soulful creatives to fully embody these themes that have brought such beautiful growth into my life. 

Themes like FREEDOM. And gratitude. And courage. And authenticity.

And rather than continuing to TELL you what Color Your Soul is, how about I show you:

I just wrapped up the first issue for September 2016, and already it's becoming more than I ever dreamed it would be. I finally feel like the unique mix of art/creativity, business/design and personal growth that has always been signature to Made Vibrant now has a beautiful conceptual package to live in thanks to Color Your Soul. 



Color Your Soul in the future

I have so many ideas and visions for how Color Your Soul could evolve in the future. At the top of that list is definitely some sort of community aspect so that subscribers can meet each other, collaborate and share in an open and safe space.

I'd also love to expand the digital magazine to include contributions from other soulful creatives and hear about how the various themes have impacted them. 

I hope you’ll consider coming along for that journey by signing up!

A monthly digital magazine to make your life more vibrant PLUS ongoing access to the Made Vibrant class catalog!

In A Nutshell


Made Vibrant is still the colorful, approachable hub for creativity and curiosity that it always has been, but now it has a focus that feels more cohesive, more purposeful and more CURATED. 

My mission and the mission of this space has been and will continue to be: helping soulful creatives (like you!) become the best, brightest versions of themselves.

Helping soulful creatives become the best, brightest versions of themselves.

My sincere hope is that these changes will provide me with authentic foundation to evolve this business further over the next couple years.

Thanks to all of you that have continued to come along for the ride! 


#ColorYourSoulDaily September Challenge Details

Monthly challenges are BACK with a whole new twist! 

As you all know, for almost two years now I've been hosting a monthly Instagram lettering challenge for the #BetterLetteringCourse to practice lettering skills daily, and it's been a big hit. 

BUT, earlier this year I started thinking about how to reimagine this monthly challenge thing into something EVERYONE in the Made Vibrant community could enjoy, not just the lettering lovers. 

So, the monthly lettering challenge has now been replaced by the #ColorYourSoulDaily Challenge -- a daily Instagram challenge for soulful creatives! 

Each challenge acts as a companion to the Color Your Soul monthly theme, and the daily prompts include creative activities and self-reflection exercises that you can complete in just 15 minutes a day! The idea is to help you integrate the monthly theme into your life through ACTION. 

This month, the goal is to use the challenge to bring more FREEDOM into your life.

I created a free printable #ColorYourSoulDaily coloring/activity workbook to keep you excited about the daily prompts (and to give you something to photos of for your Instagram posts!)

How you use the workbook is totally up to you! Add photos, drawings, lettering, writing... whatever your soulful creative heart desires!

Just post your daily work on Instagram using the #ColorYourSoulDaily tag and see what insights emerge throughout the month!

Invite friends over on Twitter!

Join me in @ckelso’s #ColorYourSoulDaily Challenge for September! Explore the theme of FREEDOM all month!

Win prizes for participating!

Now because I LOVE sending happy mail to people, I'll randomly select three challenge participants every month to get a small-but-VIBRANT care package from me! 

**Keep in mind that while anyone can join the monthly challenge and use the free workbook, only Color Your Soul Subscribers are eligible to win prizes!** 


Here's how to enter:

+ Step 1: Download the FREE workbook above.

I created a printable PDF workbook as a tangible, visible way to keep you committed to the challenge all month long. Use the pages to interpret the prompts with your own creativity and flare. Use stickers, lettering, photos -- get creative! 

While the workbook is meant to be a fun way to enjoy the challenge, it's totally optional! You can still post your photos without the workbook and you're entered to win! 

+ Step 2: Post a photo of your daily exercises on Instagram with the tag #ColorYourSoulDaily.

I'll be picking posts to feature each week on my Instagram account. Each day you post, that counts as one entry into the random drawing!

+ Step 3: Win a surprise package from me! 

Three winners will be randomly selected from the entries to get a VIBRANT surprise from me in the mail. Some examples of mystery items in your happy package: my favorite art supplies, free Abstract Affirmations prints, stationery, stickers, and more!

**Remember: while anyone can join the monthly challenge and use the free workbook, only Color Your Soul Subscribers are eligible to win prizes!** 


Pin this image or save to your phone to keep the prompts handy! 

What do you say? Are you in? I sure hope so! 

Join the challenge or become a Color Your Soul Subscriber and get the latest issue straight to your inbox today! 

I hope it provides you with joy, inspiration and insight all month long!

The Pain of Standing Still

As I gear up for the launch this Thursday, I’ve been reflecting back on the creative timeline of this project and comparing/contrasting it to things I’ve made and launched in the past. 

hrough that exercise, I’ve been revisiting the many lessons I’ve learned about overcoming my fears and getting something out into the world.

These contemplations were swirling around in my head (what else is new) when a close friend asked me, “So, are you nervous to launch Color Your Soul?”

Instinctively I was about to reply “Of course!,” as I would with every other thing I’ve launched in the past, but instead I just paused.

I paused because while the answer IS yes -- there’s always that fear in your mind that no one will like or want or buy what you’re making -- I was actually astounded at just how little time I had spent thinking about that fear over the course of the summer, which is honestly a real departure from my normal operating procedure.

Truthfully it never even occurred to me NOT to launch Color Your Soul once the idea came to me in its fully realized form. And whatever doubts or fears momentarily arose, they were quickly quieted by my passion for getting the thing made.

BUT... this, as I said, is NOT typical of my process in the past.

And I know from the many emails I’ve received from several of you on this list that creative fear is a very real hurdle, one that has the power to take what’s in your head and your heart and allow it to gather dust.

So I thought to myself… When did it change? What made the difference? When did I reach that point where I was able to dull the voices of fear in my head and what nugget of wisdom might I be able to pluck out and pass on to anyone whose fear voices are the loudest thing in the room?

Well before I get to that nugget, a quick backstory…

Back in 2011, I was still working for a local ad agency back in Florida. In my less productive work hours, I would find myself straying away from my work and over to my favorite design and lifestyle blogs (I justified this distraction time as “gathering inspiration.”)

I would cozy up in the archives of these popular online spaces, clicking through page after page of words and images and all this juicy creativity, and I would find myself feeling equally inspired and envious. I was completely envious of these people who had such distinct and well-developed creative voices.

The more I saw other people expressing themselves in this very public way -- a way that had the power to connect with a random stranger like myself -- the more it felt like a mirror reflecting back my own desires, and, more importantly, my own UNREALIZED potential.

I could sense I had something to say, but I didn’t have the first clue about how to say it. I knew I had a voice that was begging to be shared too, but I was afraid that no one would care about it.

The fear and overwhelm of not knowing where to start just paralyzed me.

The days and weeks and months ticked by and I remember feeling more and more stifled and frustrated as I kept imagining myself as one of those bloggers I so admired, only to quickly return to reality, disappointed that this vision existed only in my head.


Until one day, the pain of carrying these suppressed creative impulses inside became so beyond frustrating that it finally drowned out every one of my fears.

The nagging desire to share my own voice became so persistent that it outweighed whatever hesitations I had.

So I finally started my blog.

I was reluctant and full of doubt and honestly kind of embarrassed at first, wondering what my friends would think. But from the moment I hit publish on my first post, I experienced this relief that's hard to describe. Like a colorful bird that had been trapped in a cage was finally free to fly.

That blog became a place that I could share my writing, my creative ideas and, really, work through my own journey of self-discovery. It was my sandbox to play in, to learn and to stretch the creative muscles that I didn’t even yet know the extent of.

That blog turned into a few side design projects which turned into my full-time design business which evolved into the Made Vibrant brand that exists today.

It’s five years later, but with every single thing that I bring out of my head and out into the world today -- whether it’s something as big as a new website or as small as one Instagram post -- the same basic battle is waged between my fear and my creative impulse:

Will I express what’s inside or will my fear keep me from doing so?

In those moments, I always think back to that day I decided to start my first blog because it illuminates for me this very simple logical conclusion in my brain:

The pain of standing still will always be greater than the fear of moving forward.

The PAIN (and yes, I do think it is a soulful, psychic kind of pain) of keeping untapped potential inside me is a fate far worse than putting it out into the world and seeing what comes of it.

Once you finally reach that rational conclusion, you start to feel you’re virtually unstoppable because you have no choice but to go on making.

THIS is the nugget that allows me to silence my fear and keep on creating things, and now it makes sense to me why Color Your Soul has felt like the most fearless thing I’ve ever created.

It’s not because I don’t HAVE these fears anymore (like I said, they’re always there, and, if anything, when it’s something you care so much about, they’re even more present); it’s simply that my fears are WAAAAY outgunned by the truth and vision and creative impulse I have within this project.

The notion of NOT publishing something this aligned with my creative spirit is so heartbreaking to consider that it makes the alternative -- overcoming my fears of rejection -- seem like nothing more than a necessary step in the process.

So, my challenge is to you this week is to get REALLY acquainted with the pain of standing still.

I want you to think about that thing -- that novel, or blog, or business, or song, or career -- still sitting inside you begging to be born. I want you to ask yourself what kind of impact that untapped potential is having on your heart, what kind of subtle shade it’s creating over your true spirit.

And then I want you to ask yourself:

What’s scarier -- overcoming your fears of rejection OR living your whole life with that subtle shade never being lifted?

I promise you...

Once you decide that your greatest fear is doing nothing at all, the courage to make things becomes a whole lot easier to muster.

Wishing you all an AMAZING week, and I’ll be back in your inbox on Thursday with all the details about the new website, Color Your Soul and more!


Create The Thing That Only YOU Can Create

The countdown is officially ON…!

Just one more week until the new website reveal and the launch of my new monthly subscription, Color Your Soul. I’m practically bursting at the seams to invite you guys in and see what you think!

But, as with any big project launch or unveiling, I’m starting to notice those doubt-inducing jitters creeping in. I have enough experience creating by now to know that the Fear voices only get louder the closer you get to putting something new out into the world.

This time though, I’ll admit these jitters have reached a whole new level, mainly because Color Your Soul is unlike anything I’ve ever made before. In fact, it’s kind of unlike anything I’ve everSEEN before.

And the truth is, that fact has me pretty nervous.

When I dreamt the whole thing up last year, I had this vision for a creative hybrid subscription of sorts. I wanted it to be part magazine with rotating content around a central theme; part online learning hub with new classes added on a monthly basis; and part exclusive art gallery where I could make a collection of art with a central message and share it to a group of art lovers that would appreciate it.

The only problem is...

What do you call a thing like that? How do you EXPLAIN a thing like that? And finally, the doozy-of-a-doubt that shows up for me on the regular:

Will anyone even WANT a thing like that?

Those are the questions that continue to bubble up as I stare down this massive to-do listing sitting between me and the launch on September 1st.

Has this feeling ever happened to you?

Have you ever fallen in love with an idea that feels unprecedented in a way? Maybe it’s a weird business idea that you just can’t shake, or a really specific niche audience you want to reach, or your own hacked together way of designing something, or an art style that feels strange but also kind of wonderful…

The feeling is like you’re floating out in the middle of the ocean -- no one’s paper to glance at, no one to ask for advice, no one to walk ten steps ahead and make sure you don’t fall down a well… it’s just YOU.

Well here’s what I’ve learned about that feeling.

Even though it can feel vulnerable and risky and kinda lonely and TOTALLY scary… it can also be a beautiful sign that you’re actually creating from your most authentic voice.

I forget sometimes that I actually live with the king of crazy himself, Mr. Jason Zook, who among other things has sold ad space on his chestsold his last name, and most recently has sold his future.

In response to each one of those ideas, multiple people told Jason they either a) didn’t understand the idea or b) knew the idea would never work.

And you know what? He did them anyway. Why? Because that’s who he is. Jason’s authenticity lies in constantly doing things that push the boundaries and that challenge convention.

When I feel myself doubting this idea that I’ve come to love so deeply even for one second just because it feels new and different and weird, I think of Jason and I’m reminded that different is memorable. Different is authentic. Different is original.

So let this week’s letter be a permission slip to you (and really, to MYSELF):

Create the thing that only YOU can create. 

Create the thing that only YOU can create.


Create the thing that is so true to who you are and what your gifts are and what you feel compelled to make that it's impossible for it to exist because YOU haven't made it yet.

Go after your unique vision even if it feels weird and scary and completely unknown because that just means that the payoff of creating it will be that much greater when you see your vision come to life.

Not only will you have the distinct pleasure of making something you’ve been dreaming of and following through on your idea, but chances are that it’ll be the idea that makes people sit up and pay attention because it will be 100% YOU.

Creating is a scary and exciting thing, and I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way. :)

I’m hoping that when my own labor of love finally reaches you next week, that you’ll be able to see the ME-ness in every inch of it. Wishing you all a wonderful week!


Learn How To Love The Chapter You’re In

Tomorrow I’ll be turning 28, and -- as birthdays inevitably do -- the occasion has me thinking about where I am in my life right now compared to years before.

I’m unbelievably happy and grateful to say that this year may go down as my best year (really OUR best year) yet. I think it’s a combination of getting older (and wiser) in general, and growing more fully into ourselves, our values and our relationship.

But, there are also definitely some external factors that have made this year especially memorable. This year we paid off our debt so we don’t have that financial burden hovering over us anymore. This is our first year out in California living on our own, and we love the condo we found just two blocks from the ocean. We’ve been able to plan a few fun trips throughout the year, and now I’m just a few weeks away from releasing my favorite offering to date (more on that below!!)

BUT... I promise I’m not here to just drop into your inbox and tell you how great my life is going. That’s not what I want this week’s letter to be about AT ALL.

Instead, what I want to do is point out that things most certainly did not always feel this way.

Yes, I feel I’ve arrived at a place where I’m sinking more and more into contentment every day, but I didn’t arrive here without some challenges along the way.

I haven’t forgotten the back to back months I worked 12 hour days trying to get Made Vibrant off the ground, wondering where my next client was going to come from. I haven’t forgotten the days when I dreaded the idea of logging into my bank account to see another overdraft fee charged or another credit card minimum that made my jaw drop. Days when I laid in bed at night trying to breathe through a panic attack because the pressure of being fully responsible for my own income was just too much to bear.

No part of me is afraid to admit there were dark days and sad days and tough days and days I thought seriously that I didn’t have what it takes to make my dreams come true.  (Maybe some of you reading this now can relate to those kind of days.)

But, this week, as I contemplate what my 27th year brought me and how it feels to have climbed out of those dark days bit by bit, I find myself wondering what I would possibly say to my former self during those tough times. I wonder what advice would seem appropriate now with the massive advantage of experiencing my own future.

What I would say is this:

Learn how to love the chapter you’re in.

Learn how to love the chapter you’re in.

My life (and your life) is a book that is still being written. Yes, maybe it’s a cheesy analogy that belongs on a greeting card, but I heard this once and the image has always stuck with me.

It reminds me that we are all the protagonists in our own adventure story, and EVEN BETTER, we’re also the authors of that story. We actually have the power to create and manifest what happens to ourselves as the main characters.

And, like all stories worth telling, the protagonist doesn’t just magically prevail without encountering a little bit of adversity along the way. He or she does not arrive at their happiest destination overnight.  


Because adversity provides context to triumph.

Because adversity provides context to triumph.

Just like rain gives context to sunshine. We aren’t able to fully appreciate where we arrive without comparing it to what we went through to get there.

So when I say learn to love the “chapter” you’re in, I mean that I wish I could go back and tell myself three years ago to zoom out just a bit and acknowledge the WHOLE of the story I was living. I’d remind myself that the chapter of that moment was just one of dozens of plot points on my character’s journey.

The same goes for you right now. You may find yourself in a chapter -- it could be a week or a few months or even the past year - where it all just feels so dang HARD. You’re engaged in what my better half refers to as “the climb”. Unfortunately, the climb never really goes away, so we have to find ways to illuminate the beauty of the climb in spite of how hard it might feel in the moment.

That is what learning to love this chapter is all about.

It’s about finding a way to appreciate your current circumstances for the CONTEXT that it will provide to your future triumphs.

So, this week, your challenge is to learn to see the moment you’re in as a puzzle piece to this greater, more magnificent picture that you can’t yet imagine.

I want you to ask yourself:

  • What beauty can I find in this moment?
  • What will I take away from this time period when I reach that goal I’m striving toward?
  • What are my current challenges here to teach me?
  • ow will this moment make me appreciate my future more?

I know it’s not always easy, and I know that some of you out there right now are encountering challenges that I’ll never be able to fully empathize with.

But I hope today’s letter in some small way can act as a letter from your future self reminding you that any hardship you’re experiencing now in this moment -- however big or however small -- isn’t in vain. It’s just one CHAPTER in the amazing story that is your life.

This is the chapter where we learn what your character is made of, how strong you are in the face of adversity or how determined your spirit is to seek out a future beyond your wildest imagination.

And even now in my own amazing days filled with gratitude and fun trips like the one this week, I know that it’s only one chapter. That I have no idea what’s waiting for me just around the bend.

But whether sunshine or rain, I am learning to love every chapter I’m in, knowing that they all contribute just one small part to a bigger, grander story that’s worth telling.

Wishing you all find beauty in this week’s chapter!


Hard Conversations Standing Between You And Your Best Life

I want to start today’s post with three quick personal stories that many of you may not know from my past.


When Jason and I met in 2010, I was in my final year of college, just months shy of graduating. Truth be told, I was actually already in another serious relationship that had been going on for more than a year. I had occasional doubts about the relationship I was in, moments when I wondered about our compatibility or our future together, but I thought that was normal. I figured everyone had doubts about that stuff. That was until I met Jason. We hit it off right away and the way we were able to laugh together and talk so comfortably with one another was something I’d never experienced before. Still, I did my best to convince myself that our instant connection was nothing more than friendship, and I tried to ignore the feeling in my gut telling me my current relationship wasn’t right.

As the days went by, the more I tried to ignore my own inner conflict, the louder this voice inside started to become. I felt physically sick to my stomach, a feeling I now recognize as my body’s way of telling me I was living out of alignment with my true self. One day I woke up and finally decided I couldn’t bear the feeling anymore. I knew I had to end things with my then-boyfriend, hurting someone that I still really cared about in the process.

It was one of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had.

Our families with intermingled, people were invested in our relationship, and I hated the thought of letting them down or hurting anyone at all because of a decision that felt really selfish (and, honestly, kind of crazy) at the time.

Ultimately though I knew that the version of myself I wanted to invest in was the one I could be when I was with this unconventional, goofy, assertive, wild dreamer of a guy named Jason. And I told myself that I was willing to battle through whatever uncomfortable fallout would come with claiming that relationship -- the right relationship -- for my life.


Fast forward a few months after college graduation, and I found myself living in Durham, North Carolina working for a well-respected advertising agency on big name accounts like Sherwin-Williams and Nationwide (a job I had already pursued prior to my decision to start a relationship with Jason, who was living back in Jacksonville.)

A big part of me felt like I had made it. I was on the path to becoming the successful modern-day Mad Men ad exec that I dreamed about. But after the luster of my first few weeks of being a career woman wore off, the weight of the path that I’d chosen started to become a lot more clear. The people were nice and the work felt prestigious, but I hated that I wasn’t putting any of my true talents to work. I spent my days in the media department formatting spreadsheets instead of coming up with creative solutions and making things. Every morning I woke up with a pit in my stomach, and every night I went home and cried.

As Brené Brown says, “unused creativity is not benign.” Keeping my talents unrealized was making my heart ache. Again, now I can look back and see that my intuition was doing everything it could to wake me up to the realization that this career was not the right one for me.

When I thought about walking into my boss’s office to tell him I QUIT as a 22-year old kid just six months into the job, I honestly didn’t know if I could physically manage it. I felt like I was letting everyone down, and I was still so concerned that everyone around me would see me as a quitter. Still, I knew that every minute spent at that job was a minute stolen from a new life -- my TRUE life -- where I could see my creativity flourish and my talents utilized.

So once again, I knew what I had to do, regardless of how hard that moment might be. I found a new job back in Jacksonville with my new crazy partner in crime, I walked into my boss’s office, I apologized, and I quit.


Years later, finally armed with a great relationship and free of a heartless career path, I decided to start my own business, Made Vibrant. Despite being a self-taught designer, I knew that in the early days my only shot at making decent money was selling my design services while I established trust with a growing audience. Things were slow to get going but after a few months, I found my confidence and my rhythm and I was booked six months in advance.

Then, that familiar feeling arrived. The pit in the stomach. The tightness in my chest. Having the health of my business rely solely on meeting the expectations of clients kept me up at night. I worried I was never doing enough. I worried I was underselling myself. I WORRIED about everything.

That’s when Jason kindly reminded me that, as the BOSS, I was in control of my business. I called the shots. If I didn’t want to be doing client work anymore, then that decision was entirely within my power to make. IF, of course, I was willing to make a few tough calls. There were a few projects that were in motion but not yet contractually agreed to, and if I wanted to start making a shift away from client work, it meant calling up those clients to break the news and let them know they’d have to find another designer.

I can still remember my heart racing as I dialed each of those numbers to make those calls. I thought I might throw up I was so nervous. I hate letting people down, I hate feeling like a quitter, I hate not following through on a commitment. But you know what I hate more? Waking up to a life that doesn’t light me up in mind, body and spirit. That is my North Star, my guiding value, and I now know that I’m willing to protect it no matter what.


I easily have a dozen more stories like those, both big and small in scale, that detail some kind of terribly hard conversation that I had to have in order to claim a new, BRIGHTER path for myself and my life.  

My point in sharing those personal moments with you is this:

To get to the life that you want, you have to power through some VERY hard conversations.

To get to the life that you want, you have to power through some VERY hard conversations.

It’s simply the price of entry to the promised land of authentic living.

You have moments when you feel like you’re letting everyone down. Moments when you feel like everyone is looking at you like you’re crazy. Heck, moments when YOU don’t even really know what you’re doing.

But that’s when it’s important for you to remember that any life that doesn’t illuminate your spirit through and through is too small for you.

When you take a step back, do you really think that fear of a hard conversation should have the power to rob you of a life that feels bright and true and full?

Is avoiding an awkward break-up or family argument or uncomfortable conversation with a boss or colleague worth wondering what might have been?

The thing about authenticity is that none of us typically knows what’s right or wrong for ourselves until we experience it. We don’t know a career path isn’t for us until we live it every day. We may not know a relationship is toxic until we have time and experience to compare it to. Authentic living is a full-contact, hands-on, roll-your-sleeves-up kind of sport, and you have to know that going into it.

If our only way of discovering the right path for us is feeling our way through it, then we’re bound to make some wrong turns every now and again. And in order to course-correct, we have to speak up and make some changes. Hard conversations are a part of that.

So, my challenge to you this week is to ask yourself this question:

What hard conversations might be standing between you and your best life?

Who are you so afraid of letting down that you’re willing to stay stuck instead of break free?

And, for bonus points, I challenge you to actually HAVE that hard conversation.Rip off that band-aid and remind yourself of what is waiting for you on the other side.

It could be the relationship of a lifetime (hi, Jason); it could be a career that brings out gifts in you that you didn’t even know you had; or it could be a direction in your business that leads to a happier and healthier way of life for you. It could be a million more other things, but if you pay attention to that feeling in your gut, that ache you have will tell you it’s out there.

For all of you that have powered through hard conversations to arrive at your brightest life, way to go. The closer you get to your most vibrant life, the less of those conversations you’ll find yourself having.


Re-defining What It Means To Be Selfish

As creative business owners, I think one of the main struggles we encounter is this:

The contrast between a) making things we feel compelled to make -- things that serve our need to create what WE ourselves have in our hearts -- and then b) making something that others need -- something that brings them value that they’re willing to pay for (that’s the business owner part of the equation, right?)

This conflict brings up an interesting question around selfishness. If we choose NOT to create things based on the needs of other people and instead choose to create things based solely on the needs of ourselves... does that make us inherently selfish?

And, this spurs some even bigger questions to ponder...

Is creating art inherently selfish?
Is being a human inherently selfish?

And is the idea being selfish inherently good or bad?

With these questions swirling around in my head, I ruminated on this word all week long. Even when I say the word “selfish” I immediately feel icky, which is an indication to me that this word has been commandeered by our culture and taught to us to be an inherently negative trait.

But then I think about what it actually means.

To me, being “selfish” just means placing focus on your own needs, your own priorities, your own unique lens with which you see the world.

And what’s confusing about that is if I’ve learned anything these past few years, it’s that shifting focus away from the expectations of others and back on my true self (my needs, my priorities, my unique lens) has brought me immense satisfaction and joy.

So I began to realize that this word, selfish, desperately needs to undergo a massive makeover. (Cue the “I wanna be a supermodel” makeover montage from Clueless, which I’m not embarrassed to admit I watched and thoroughly enjoyed last weekend.)

We need to begin dismantling this idea of what it means to be selfish and reassemble it with the understanding that focusing on one’s self can actually be a very positive thing.

For example, let’s take the artist’s conundrum I mentioned above.

I believe that YES, art in a way is inherently selfish because it comes from the lens of the artist that created it. And great art is usually born out of one person’s deep need to unleash their perspective to the outside world. The response from or benefit to the outside world is usually the effect, not the cause.

The irony then lies in the fact that the MORE a person can focus on their perspective, hone their vision and their identity, the more profound (and impactful) their art can become.

Take the poet David Whyte for example. David Whyte’s poetry is so gorgeous and stirring that at times I wonder how art so beautiful could be created by a mere human just like me.

The answer is that I believe David Whyte is selfish in the very best way. The only way he is able to create art that brings so many people like me around the world joy and meaning and wisdom is because he serves his own self -- his own soul. The deeper he dives into the contemplation of his own experiences and perspectives, the more he is able to emerge with universal truths that can serve others.

Get it? Selfishness is a delightfully contradictory concept because the more you focus on yourself -- the more self-actualized you become -- the more you are able to give to others. And the circle goes on.

And it doesn’t just apply to art. Anyone who has ever taken a “me” day can attest that this rings true in our lives as well. When we take a moment to focus on our own needs, to check in and make sure that our buckets are filled, that is when we can bring our best selves to our spouses, our families, our friends, and even strangers.

So here’s my conclusion.

There is nothing wrong with being selfish if selfish means fully realizing the potential of one’s self (and I choose to believe it does.)

The issue is that we, being the scarcity-minded culture we are, have chosen to believe that when a person leans more fully into their own wholeness that it somehow distracts and detracts from the needs of everyone else. That is the myth that I want to bust with this letter.

Because there’s a difference between being selfish at the expense of others and being selfish so that we can benefit others.

There’s a difference between being selfish at the expense of others and being selfish so that we can benefit others.

The distinction is in the intent.

I think it’s time that we re-define what it means to be selfish and reclaim that word for good in this context, because deep in my bones I believe that humanity benefits when we all focus on showing up as our brightest, best selves. Everybody wins.

Here’s my new definition of selfishness. See if this is something you might be able to get behind:

Selfishness is realizing that tuning into your own needs first allows you to be more fully present to the needs of others.

Selfishness is realizing that ultimately the only life we have full control over is our own, and that it’s our gift and our charge to be good stewards of that precious life by taking care of ourselves.

Selfishness is focusing on creating things that stir your heart and your soul before molding your vision to the expectations of other people.

Selfishness is being HONEST about what you need when you need it.

Selfishness is being your own advocate.

Selfishness is recognizing that when each of us takes full ownership of living as our brightest selves, humanity’s light as a whole shines brighter too.

What do you think?

Armed with these new definitions, this week I challenge you to be a little more selfish.

Whether it’s in your art and you need encouragement to follow your vision without diluting it with the expectations of others OR whether you need permission to tend to your own needs for a little while, I hope this letter gives you the boost you need.

Remember, there is nothing wrong with taking care of yourself. You only get your one life and it would be a shame to divvy it up piece by piece and sell it off to the highest bidder.

Take care of YOU and good things will follow!


Make Lasting Change By Turning Off Autopilot

Lately I've been sneaking in plenty of downtime with my favorite pal, Netflix, and I've been on a documentary bender!

One of the docs that Jas and I recently watched together was the Tony Robbins documentary, I Am Not Your Guru. Have you seen it?

Tony Robbins is one of those guys that I have had mixed perceptions about. On one hand, I trust that his heart is in the right place and he wants to help as many people as possible in this world and that he is uniquely gifted to do so. But, on the other hand, whenever I think of his work and approach, I can’t help but be skeptical of his “seminar” style, big-ballrooms-full-of-people, multiple-thousands-of-dollars-for-admission business model.

Given my fascination with him, I was definitely intrigued by the idea of this documentary, which promised unprecedented access to one of Tony’s live events.

I won’t go into every detail of the film, but my final impression is that even though there are some tactics that Tony uses at his events that make me feel uncomfortable (side note: I think that’s the point), there is one big takeaway from his teaching that I think is applicable to anyone who wants to live a more vibrant life (regardless of your level of skepticism) and it’s this:

It’s impossible to make lasting change when we’re operating on autopilot. 

It’s impossible to make lasting change when we’re operating on autopilot.

Throughout the film (and in THIS awesome interview where he sits down with Marie Forleo to talk about the documentary), Tony talks about breaking patterns in people.


Whether it’s something as small as a habit that we want to get rid of, an old limiting belief that we need to confront, or even something much more dire like depression or suicidal thoughts (something that a handful of people at any given one of his events is struggling with), our patterns act like an endless cycle of emotional cement that keeps us stuck where we are.

In order to break free of that cement, we have to break those patterns. In order to break those patterns, Tony talks about the need to "change someone’s state."

In other words, he has to create some sort of shock or altered environment or unexpected disruption to snap them out of the autopilot mode they've been running on. Once out of their hypnotic groove, that’s when someone can awaken to a new way of thinking or experience a breakthrough.

The more I listened to this theory, the more it made so much sense to me.

How many times have you experienced a perspective shift because of a trip you took or an immersive experience you had? The time away from the comfort of your patterns and routines can facilitate that.

I started thinking about just how many aspects of life can sometimes start to feel like they’re on autopilot.

  • Relationships. It can be so easy to fall into certain roles in any relationship which can create mental patterns that have you replaying the same conflicts over and over again. Does one person always do X and the other always does Y? Why not switch up the roles for a while in order to break the pattern.
  • Health. Unhealthy habits are probably one of the hardest things to break once they’re on autopilot. When I was working my old job at an ad agency, I would have a Diet Coke every day at 3pm just to pump up my energy and make it through to the end of the day. Most days I didn’t even want it or need it but it became a part of my daily work routine and so I was convinced I could never give up soda. (That is until I no longer worked at that office with a vending machine, and now I no longer drink soda of any kind.)
  • Work. Do you find yourself having the same feelings week after week when it comes to your work -- Sunday night dread, Monday morning drag, Friday afternoon freedom? Do you feel like you complete the same basic tasks over and over? Do you listen to the same music, work from the same desk, answer emails at the same time, etc.? If so, it’s possible that you’re starting to feel numb when it comes to your work and may not be enjoying it as much as you could. How could you snap out of this habitual groove and bring new life to your work?

Don’t get me wrong, habits and routines are immensely helpful when they make a positive impact on our daily lives. We can use our mind’s autopilot function to our benefit by programming it to do all sorts of helpful things (work out, meditate, tidy up, etc.)

BUT we also need to be aware of which automated behaviors are keeping us stuck in our ways and preventing us from evolving into better, brighter versions of ourselves.

I love what Tony says in his interview with Marie about breaking patterns:

“I don’t hypnotize anyone, I DE-hypnotize them. We’ve been hypnotized by our culture to settle for things. We’ve been hypnotized by our past to think of ourselves as being limited when we’re not.”

I love this idea because it illuminates the fact that our autopilot culture is actually where we need to place our skepticism. We need to question WHY we settle for certain things or why we accept certain stories that we tell ourselves.

We need to snap ourselves out of the way things have always been so that we can awaken ourselves to the way things COULD be.

So this week, I challenge you to turn off autopilot.

Pick three aspects of your life that you are feeling numb to or limited by, and then find a way to break the normal cycle of your routine.

It could be relationships, work, health, finances, hobbies, parenting, spirituality, your home, etc.

Let’s break whatever patterns are holding us back and start living life fully in control. Let’s de-hypnotize ourselves and wake up to possibility.

That's it. I hope you have an awesome week!